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‘Oxygen’ review: Sci-fi thriller induces anxiety with tight story

Running low.

Oxygen is a science fiction thriller about a woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod with no memory of what has happened. Oxygen is running low as she tries to figure out what has happened. Thankfully, she is surrounded by various types of technology. But with only the help of her Medical Interface Liaison Operator (MILO) will she have enough time?

The American-French co-production sets the tone in its opening moments. A woman tears through a cocoon like mesh as she lays in a red tinged cylinder. It is an anxiety inducing sequence only filled with the sound of cries for help. The majority of Oxygen takes place in one tight location. This gives the film a suitably claustrophobic feel even during flashbacks. MILO’s constant reminders about the decreasing air supply also increase the tension. 

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Director Alexandre Aja also uses the camera to create panic inducing shots. In one motion sickness inducing moment, the camera rotates repeatedly around the pod. This goes on for a while and reinforces the idea that there is truly no escape. There are also a number of extreme close ups that adds to the fact there is little room.

There is also a surprising beauty to the film. There are gorgeous moments sprinkled throughout Oxygen. The most stunning moment is a beautiful pan out that is mesmerizing. The main hook to Oxygen is the mystery. Escaping the pod becomes secondary to why Omicron-267 (the name stated by MILO) is in the chamber to begin with. Some of the reveals work better than others, but the movie definitely will keep audiences engaged.

This does not mean the film is not without the horror element that Aja is known for. Oxygen relies on jump scares that are well spaced out. The are scenes reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 that will make some people’s skin crawl. There is also a great scare late in the movie that catch everyone watching off guard. The story is a great mix of suspense and horror.

Oxygen releases on Netflix May 12

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